We must digress from the usual topics of Camera Club Confidential to deal with something more weighty – and possibly sinister – that I discovered while photographing at the Art Institute of Chicago and the nearby Field Museum.
I wished only to document elements of light and composition used by great artists. After all, if it’s in a museum, it’s great art, right? Or is it great art when it serves some specific purpose, such as the transmission of secret messages? Aha! As I moved from painting to sculpture to painting, I noted a pattern developing. Regardless of style, era, materials, or comprehensibility, much of the art in these great museums featured hats. Now, I know for a fact that The Secret Hat Society does not exist, so it is clear to me that artists through the ages have been creating false evidence of a widespread hat conspiracy, perhaps to provide cover for some other secret society.
I’ll show you some of the evidence I gathered, but I had to quit when it became clear I was getting too close. As I entered a large, corporate building to photograph a three-story-high sculpture in the otherwise empty lobby, the sole human in the massive space, cleverly disguised as a security guard, said only, “I like your LBJ hat!”
Really? How many people outside The Fedora Lounge and The (nonexistent) Secret Hat Society would recognize my Stestson Open Road as an “LBJ hat?” He knew too much. I know too little.
The truth is up there.
Most visitors seem oblivious to the hatness of even the most playful, innocuous looking painting. But what are we to make of the people sitting in the shade, still wearing hats? And what of the people wearing hats AND carrying parasols? Clearly the metaphor suggests that some people need more protection than others, but why?
Highly suspicious. Camouflaged in a modern hat with poofy, Victorian overtones, this woman clearly intended to blend into the painting. I felt duty-bound to follow her about the museum, at least until a security guard told me to "knock it off." Curious expression. Was he really trying to tell me that I would find what I was looking for if I "knocked off" her hat? I'll never know, because she disappeared into the crowd. Or into a painting.
Once again we see the hat plus umbrella scenario, even though we know that if The Secret Hat Society existed, members would eschew umbrellas, knowing that rain only improves a good fur felt hat. A classic case of misdirection. Note to tourist: sunglasses on top of head do not count as a hat.
Here's where a knowledge of lighting comes in handy: The brightness of the wire-walker is clearly intended to distract us from the sinister activities of the hat-wearing ruffians in the foreground.
If ever a hat was more secret message than head protection or fashion statement, this is the one. And Rembrandt could get away with it.
The possibilities are endless - endlessly terrifying.
People continuously gathered in front of this painting, and you could see the question on each viewer's mind: "Why wouldn't a bald farmer be wearing a hat?"
A prominent hat and an accusing finger. But can a nonexistent entity retort?
Here we begin to see a sub-theme concerning the power of women, subservience of men (who regularly go bald), and role of hats in the battle of the sexes.
Hat aficianados know well the "rakish angle" and "Hollywood brim," but rarely speak of "The Arrogant Tilt," so blatantly displayed here.
If you can find the corset, you can find the hat. And when you find the hat, you'll feel the chill of terror that gripped me in the climate-controlled museum.
Don't be distracted by the pork-pie in the foreground. It's the Boris Badenov hat disguised as a roof that tells the tale here.
Does her sadness spring from the artist's treatment of her hat, or the indignities of sitting for such a disgustingly hungover painter?
As far as the hats go, the less said the better.
Chronicle of a stinging foretold: How did this ancient Ecuadorian statue with the beehive hat know that my son would be attacked by killer bees while visiting Ecuador?
The still center of a chaotic universe? Find the derby and we find peace?
To understand a woman's supernatural power to make hats look good, we turn to the writer William Wharton. In his novel, Scumbler, the protagonist (a painter!) notes that "if women had beards, they would turn them into something beautiful, like they did with tits." Same thing with hats.
This is actually a very small part of this very famous painting. Perhaps Hopper believed that the SHS was small and powerless in a vast, dark universe. But why did he believe that the SHS existed, when it clearly does not?
For centuries, guys have believed that cool guitars attract women, but she is clearly fixated by this guy's lame beanie. Does the artist mean to suggest that hats pervert nature?
A woman could make even this hat look good, and this poor guy knows it. The artist suggests that a hat is part of a mask or disguise; to wear a hat is to change our identity. Hats, like beards, are to be held suspect as attempts to hide something.
That early inhabitants of North America presaged the arrival of Theodore Roosevelt shocked me to the core. The obvious connection between Roosevelt, awesome hats, and secret cabals cannot be overlooked.
I have hundreds more exhibits detailing the misdirection of artists through the ages. The evidence is clear, but the conclusions are not. Why would so many painters and sculptors, working on different continents in different eras, work so hard to establish the existence of The Secret Hat Society when we all know perfectly well that no such society exists? The question clearly calls for further research, and sparks at least one more question: Does Stetson offer research grants?